A Lawrence man convicted in November of killing his infant daughter was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday by a Douglas County District Court judge.
Jay D. Decker, 27, paused for several seconds while rubbing his cheek before declining to make a statement, an opportunity that was offered by Judge Paula Martin before she passed sentence.
In November, a jury found Decker guilty of first-degree murder. Evidence presented in a trial showed that 5-month-old Risha Lafferty died Oct. 14, 2005, from a skull fracture and there were signs of being shaken.
Decker will be eligible for parole after he has served 20 years in prison. He will be given credit for more than 400 days that he has already spent in the Douglas County Jail since his arrest.
Lafferty had more than 30 bruises on her body when she was found dead. A cutout piece of drywall showing a circular dent was among the evidence presented in the trial. Decker had said the girl was in a series of accidents in the days before she died.
Lafferty's mother, Brandi Mae Hendrickson, also is in jail for failing to protect her daughter from abuse. In December, Martin ordered Hendrickson to spend 60 days in jail. She will then be released on parole. During her stay in jail she will be released for work and to attend parenting classes to try to regain custody of an older, preschool-aged daughter.
Hendrickson was initially charged with felony child endangerment but ended up pleading to a misdemeanor as part of a deal to testify against Decker.
Emotions had been high during past court hearings, and a total of eight sheriff's deputies were in the courtroom providing security during the sentencing.
The case was an ordeal for all involved, from relatives of the victim and suspects to prosecutors, investigators and court officials, Assistant District Attorney Brandon Jones said.
"Being a father, too, and seeing the autopsy photos of the little 5-month-old girl who was completely innocent and had no one to protect her in this world except her mom and dad, and to see that the dad was the one who actually did these things to her," Jones said, "it really affects not only me but also the court and everyone involved. It is really a hard case to do."
The Murder of Risha Lafferty
- 6News video: Father sentenced to life for death of infant daughter (01-03-07)
- Mom gets 60 days in infant death (12-15-06)
- Mother of murdered baby pleads to child endangerment (11-22-06)
- Father convicted of infant's murder (11-18-06)
- Interrogation shown in child-abuse trial (11-16-06)
- Opening statements given in infant death trial (11-15-06)
- Trial underway in baby's death (11-13-06)
- More about the murder of Risha Lafferty